The FA Cup has reached the fourth-round stage and at Old Trafford there is an all-Premier League tie to enjoy between Manchester United and Fulham on Saturday evening.
It is always said that form goes out of the metaphorical window when the FA Cup rolls into town, but the bookies at bwin do not have high hopes for a cup shock when the league leaders take on their London opponents.
The home side are priced as 3/10 favourites in bwin’s 3-way betting market thanks to their record of losing just once at home all season and having not suffered defeat at the hands of Fulham for six games in a row.
To go with this, United have not lost in domestic competition since a tame 1-0 defeat away to Norwich City in the middle of November.
Since that Carrow Road loss, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have taken a commanding lead in the Premier League and progressed to the last 16 of the Champions League.
The Red Devils did suffer a rare blip last weekend as they succumbed to an agonisingly late goal from Clint Dempsey – the type of strike which Ferguson’s sides have always specialised in scoring – to hand Tottenham Hotspur a share of the of points at White Hart Lane.
Putting that minor disappointment to one side, United have enjoyed a successful 2013 so far and all signs point to them overcoming Fulham with the force of 76,000 fans behind them.
The Cottagers, on the other hand, have struggled to find any sort of consistency of late and have odds of 8/1 placed on them to grab a win inside the 90 minutes.
Even if you discount all the reasons why United should win, there are still plenty of reasons why Fulham won’t beat the league leaders, chief among those being that Martin Jol’s team have only won two away league games this campaign.
The Londoners have traditionally struggled away from Craven Cottage and this season is no different, with the first half seemingly where it all goes wrong for them.
Fulham have only led twice at half-time in away matches and scored just five goals prior to the interval, compared to double the amount of goals in the second halves of their games.
If they are to continue this trend then they face an uphill battle on Saturday as United, despite falling behind on many occasions this term, have been in front at the break in more than half of their home fixtures and are 13/20 to be in a winning position after 45 minutes again.
There are more attention-grabbing odds on offer too, such as 6/5 on over 3.5 goals being scored during the match (over half of United’s games have hit the over 3.5 mark), as well as 13/5 on five or more goals in the match, as has been the case in two of the past three encounters between these teams.
However, I will be playing it a bit safer and getting some more value from a United win than the 3/10 on offer in the 3Way market, which would hardly provide the biggest return for new customers using their free £20 bet on this match.
Instead, the 3/4 that United win a game of over 2.5 goals seems decent considering their superiority over Fulham and the fact that this clash pits the Premier League’s two over 2.5 goal kings together.
United and Fulham have both been involved in 17 (out of 23) games featuring three or more goals and it would be no surprise at all to see the Red Devils come out on top in an entertaining Saturday tea-time affair.